Struggling to Sleep? Here are 5 Tips

Struggling to Sleep? Here are 5 Tips 

There is no question that sleep, exercise and nutrition are critical for maintaining adequate physical health. But, did you know that they are also crucial for mental fitness? If you aren’t eating well, sleeping well or getting enough exercise, likely, you aren’t feeling or functioning well.

Getting the right amount of quality sleep is crucial for our brains to function properly. During sleep, your body is working to support healthy brain function, maintaining your physical and emotional health. It also helps to support your growth and development in children and teens. Sleep allows your brain to form new pathways for learning and remembering information, enhancing your learning and problem-solving skills. The right amount of quality sleep can help you pay attention, make better decisions and be more creative- and even lead to better academic and work performance.

Sleep continuity is also important. Research shows that getting the right amount of continuous sleep supports better cognitive performance and decision making in the brain. On the flip side, research has also shown that people who do not get enough quality sleep may experience poor working memory, worse verbal fluency and less inhibitory control- making it harder to make healthy choices.

If you often find yourself restless and struggling to get enough sleep at night, then we have five tips to help you.

  1. Try to spend some time in the sun during the day.

The circadian rhythm is the body’s natural sleep cycle which keeps us awake during the day and helps us sleep at night. Several factors influence the circadian rhythm, including a hormone called melatonin. Light exposure during the day helps to produce melatonin release at night, which induces sleepiness. Conversely, light exposure at night may have negative consequences on melatonin, so avoid bright lights and screens, including mobile phones at least two hours before bed.

  1. Get regular exercise during the day.

Exercise also helps regulate the circadian rhythm. Physical activity during the day has been shown to improve sleep quality. If you have trouble sleeping after an evening workout, adjust your schedule to make time for morning exercise instead.

  1. Save the bed for sleeping.

With many people working from home, space can be a significant obstacle. Unfortunately, working, eating, using your phone or watching tv in bed are all no-nos when it comes to healthy sleeping habits. If you have trouble sleeping, experts recommend not using the bed for anything other than sleep or romantic activities. It is also essential to get up at the same time every day, even if you didn’t sleep as much as you would have liked.

  1. Avoid alcohol and caffeine at night.

Both caffeine and alcohol can affect your circadian rhythm and cause sleep disturbances. Avoid caffeine in the afternoon and evening if you find you aren’t sleeping well. And, while alcohol may make you feel sleepy and relaxed, it has been shown to disrupt sleep rhythms by activating alpha activity in the brain. This function typically happens when you are awake and resting quietly. This change in brain activity can be disruptive for sleep, not to mention more frequent trips to the bathroom.

  1. Schedule “worry time” during the day.

If you find that your stress and worry is keeping you up at night, keep a pen and paper next to your bed. If there is something on your mind that you can’t stop thinking about, get it out of your brain and on to the paper. Then, you can come back to the issue during your designated time slot. For resolving worries, stressful thoughts or making plans. This strategy can help minimize the impact of these thoughts interfering with sleep.

Interesting in more practical ways to improve your wellbeing? APPLI have put together a ‘Creating Habits of Wellbeing’ toolkit which will provide you with additional strategies and practical tools to use in your everyday life.

https://shop.appli.edu.au/

 

References

Altena, E., Baglioni, C., Espie, C., Ellis, J., Gavriloff, D., & Holzinger, B. et al. (2020). Dealing with sleep problemsduring home confinement due to the COVID-19 outbreak: Practical recommendations from a task force of theEuropean CBT-I Academy.Journal of Sleep Research.doi: 10.1111/jsr.13052

Bottomley, A., & McKeown, J. (2008). Promoting nutrition for people with mental health problems.Nursing Standard, 22(49), 48-56.

Chapman S.B., Aslan S., Spence J.S., Keebler M.W., DeFina L.F., Didehbani N., Perez A.M., Lu H. & D’Esposito M.(2016). Distinct Brain and Behavioral Benefits from Cognitive vs. Physical Training: A Randomized Trial in AgingAdults. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 10(338). doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2016.00338

Fogg, B. (2020). Start Tiny. Retrieved 13 May 2020, from https://www.tinyhabits.com

Fogg, B. (2020).Tiny Habits: The Small Changes That Change Everything. Virgin Books.

Gardner, B., Lally, P., & Wardle, J. (2012). Making health habitual: the psychology of ‘habit-formation’ and generalpractice.British Journal Of General Practice, 62(605), 664-666. doi: 10.3399/bjgp12x659466

How Alcohol Affects the Quality—And Quantity—Of Sleep – National Sleep Foundation. (2020). Retrieved 12 May2020, from https://www.sleepfoundation.org/articles/how-alcohol-affects-quality-and-quantity-sleep

Jacobs, D.R. & Zhu, N. (2016). How does exercise benefit cognition?Scientific American. Retrieved fromhttp://www.scientificamerican.com/article/how-does-exercise-benefit-cognition/

Kandola A., Hendrikse J., Lucassen P.J. & Yücel M. (2016). Aerobic Exercise as a Tool to Improve HippocampalPlasticity and Function in Humans: Practical Implications for Mental Health Treatment. Frontiers in HumanNeuroscience, 10(373). doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2016.00373

Mental Health Foundation. (2006). Feeding Minds: The Impact of Food on Mental Health. MHF, London.

Morres, I., Hatzigeorgiadis, A., Stathi, A., Comoutos, N., Arpin-Cribbie, C., Krommidas, C., & Theodorakis, Y. (2018).Aerobic exercise for adult patients with major depressive disorder in mental health services: A systematic review andmeta-analysis.Depression and Anxiety, 36(1), 39-53. doi: 10.1002/da.22842

Parletta, N. (2016). Can diet and Nutrition Affect our Learning, Behavior and Mental Health?.Nutridate, 27(4), 10.

Robinson, P. L. (2018).Practising Positive Education: A guide to improve wellbeing literacy in schools (2nd ed.).Positive Psychology Institute: Sydney, Australia.

Robinson, P. L., Oades, L. G., & Caputi, P. (2015). Conceptualising and measuring mental fitness: A Delphi study.International Journal of Wellbeing, 5(1), 53-73.

Sharma, A., Madaan, V., & Petty, F. (2006). Exercise for Mental Health.The Primary Care Companion to The JournalOf Clinical Psychiatry, 08(02), 106. doi: 10.4088/pcc.v08n0208a

Why Is Sleep Important? – NHLBI, NIH. (2016). Nhlbi.nih.gov. Retrieved 8 September 2016, fromhttp://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/sdd/why

Wilckens, K., Woo, S., Kirk, A., Erickson, K., & Wheeler, M. (2014). Role of sleep continuity and total sleep time inexecutive function across the adult lifespan.Psychology and Aging, 29(3), 658-665. doi: 10.1037/a0037234

 

Why we have negative thoughts and how to change them

Why we have negative thoughts and how to change them

Have you caught yourself thinking negatively about yourself or a situation you have no control over? You may like to know, you’re not alone. Fear, shame, guilt, distress and sadness are some of the negative emotions that many people experience during difficult times.

While they may be unpleasant, negative emotions have a very important purpose- allowing us to survive as a species. Humanity has relied on these powerful emotions to protect us from danger and remain an essential part of our evolution. However, there is a substantial downside to this survival mechanism. This evolutionary mechanism in our brains, known as the Negativity Bias, makes us pay more attention to the negative experiences or things in our life compared to the positive experiences. There’s a good reason for this. For survival, our ancestors had to be more aware of life-threatening risks such as predators. Paying too much attention to the positive things around them (that did not pose a threat) made no sense when survival was a day-to-day proposition.

Fortunately, life is much safer in the 21st century. But the Negativity Bias is still alive and well in the primitive part of our brain. Our brains are, in fact, hardwired to ‘Velcro’ the negatives and ‘Teflon’ the positives. This can cause problems for us by creating an unhealthy positive-to-negative emotional ratio, which can contribute to mental illness.

The good news? Research suggests that we can improve our positive to negative emotional ratio and the ill-effects of Negativity Bias. By applying simple, evidence-based strategies, we can feel better and function well more often.

Automatic Negative Thoughts (aka ANTs) are thinking traps or stories that we tell ourselves that aren’t necessarily true. Sometimes our brains get into the habit of repeating these distortions over and over, causing a pattern of unhealthy thoughts that can lead to low levels of wellbeing and even depression or anxiety. These harmful thoughts can make us feel even worse while we are already dealing with the stress and uncertainty or difficult periods.

ANTs begin due to the Negativity Bias, which is hardwired into the human brain. Fortunately, you can learn to identify your ANTs and transform them into PETs, (aka Performance Enhancing Thoughts) with a little help from Positive Psychology and a process known as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT).

 You can start transforming your ANTs and PETs by challenging your thoughts. You can start by asking yourself some of these simple questions:

  • How much do you believe this thought?
  • What are the advantages and disadvantages of this thought?
  • What is the evidence for and against this thought? Could you convince a jury that your negative interpretation is the best or only valid one?
  • Is there something you could do to determine if this thought is true?
  • If the thought is true, are there some things you can do to improve the situation?
  • ASK YOURSELF THE KEY QUESTION: Is this thought helping me?

You can learn more about how to create PETS (Performance Enhancing Thoughts) as well as other techniques to build your Resilience with our ‘Bouncing Back and Leaping Forward’ Mental Fitness Toolkit.

https://shop.appli.edu.au/

 

References

Baumeister, R. F., Bratslavsky, E., Finkenauer, C., & Vohs, K. D. (2001). Bad Is Stronger Than Good.Reviewof General Psychology, 5(4), 323-370.https://doi.org/10.1037/1089-2680.5.4.323

Beck, J. (2011).Cognitive Therapy. New York: Guilford Press.

Covey, S.. (1989).The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. New York: Simon & Schuster.

Diener, E., & Biswas-Diener, R. (2008).The Science of Optimal Happiness. Boston: Blackwell

Publishing.Frederickson, B. (2004). The broaden-and-build theory of positive emotions.PhilosophicalTransactions: Biological Sciences, 359(1449), 1367-1377.

Fredrickson, B., & Joiner, T. (2018). Reflections on Positive Emotions and UpwardSpirals.Perspectives on Psychological Science, 13(2), 194-199. doi: 10.1177/1745691617692106

Hayes, S. C. (1994). Content, context, and the types of psychological acceptance. In S. C. Hayes, N.S. Jacobson, V. M. Follette, & M. J. Dougher (Eds.),Acceptance and Change: Content and context inpsychotherapy(pp. 13-32). Reno, NV: Context Press.

Henriksen, K., Haberl, P., Baltzell, A., Hansen, J., Birrer, D., & Larsen, C. H. (2019). Mindfulness andAcceptance Approaches. In K. Henriksen, J. Hansen, C.H. Larsen (Eds.),Mindfulness and Acceptance inSport: How To Help Athletes Perform and Thrive Under Pressure.

Hayes, S. C. (1994). Content, context, and the types of psychological acceptance. In S. C. Hayes, N.S. Jacobson, V. M. Follette, & M. J. Dougher (Eds.),Acceptance and change: Content and Context inpsychotherapy(pp. 13-32). Reno, NV: Context Press.

Kashdan, T., & Ciarrochi, J. (2013). Mindfulness, Acceptance, and Positive Psychology: The SevenFoundations of Well-Being. Oakland, CA: New Harbinger.

Robinson, P. (2018).Practising Positive Education: A Guide to Improve Wellbeing Literacy in Schools (2nded.). Positive Psychology Institute: Sydney, Australia.

Robinson, P. L., Oades, L. G. & Caputi, P. (2014).Conceptualising and measuring mental fitness, Doctor ofPhilosophy thesis, Department of Psychology, University of Wollongong.https://ro.uow.edu.au/theses/4269

Robinson, P. L., Oades, L. G., & Caputi, P. (2015). Conceptualising and measuring mental fitness: A Delphistudy.International Journal of Wellbeing, 5(1), 53-73.

Seligman, M. E. P., (2006).Learned Optimism: how to change your mind and your life. New York: VintageBooks.

Staying Connected- How Our Relationships Affect Our Wellbeing

Staying Connected- How Our Relationships Affect Our Wellbeing

‘There are few stronger predictions of happiness than a close, nurturing, equitable, intimate, lifelong companionship with one’s best friend.’ David Myers, Psychologist.

You’re probably wondering how relationships have such an impact on our happiness?

It may be surprising, but research suggests that our relationships are one of the most significant predictors of physical and psychological wellbeing across all ages. There are so many predicted health benefits as a result of the presence of positive relationships, such as;

  • Improved recovery from surgery
  • Better immunity to cold and flu viruses
  • Lower incidence of heart attacks
  • Greater ability to cope with stress (oxytocin)
  • Higher worker satisfaction and productivity
  • Increased life expectancy (due to hormonal, cardiovascular, and immune responses in the body)
  • Higher academic achievement
  • Greater career mobility
  • Greater life satisfaction

 

During times of challenge, our team can be significant source of support. Your team are the people in your life that you would normally spend regular time with, such as your work colleagues, friends, family, etc.

Take a minute to think about who’s on your team? Who supports you emotionally?

For many, the lack of social connection during these unprecedent times has been a significant source of stress. Research shows that one risk of remote working is social isolation and loneliness, but the current COVID restrictions complicate this further. Evidence shows that relationships and connection are critical for high levels of psychological wellbeing. So, without a plan in place, individuals are at risk of developing mental health problems, so we must find ways to try to stay connected as much as possible during this current pandemic.

A few new ways we’re able to stay connected include:

  • Catching up for coffee or dinner with a friend whilst abiding by the current social distancing rules.
  • Reconnecting with old friends on social media. It is never too late to rekindle old friendships.
  • Organise a virtual game night.
  • Joining positive social media groups to discuss hobbies and shared interests.
  • Sending a card, letter or gift to those that you can’t travel to see right now.
  • Spending quality time with those in your household, playing games, dancing or cooking together.
  • Asking your colleagues to share something funny or a story about their weekend during conference calls.
  • Starting a hashtag and encourage your workplace or community to post around a positive topic.
  • Joining a virtual trivia games or participating in virtual cooking classes.

 

APPLI have put together a ‘Staying Connected’ toolkit which will provide you with additional strategies and practical tools that you can use to manage your relationships and wellbeing during the COVID pandemic and throughout life.

References

Aknin, L.B., Dunn, E.W. & Norton, M.I. (2012). Happiness Runs in a Circular Motion: Evidence for a Positive Feedback Loop between Prosocial Spending and Happiness. J Happiness Stud, 13, 347–355. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10902-011-9267-5

Brannan, D., Biswas-Diener, R., Mohr, C., Mortazavi, S., & Stein, N. (2013). Friends and family: A cross-cultural investigation of social support and subjective well-being among college students. The Journal Of Positive Psychology, 8(1), 65-75. doi: 10.1080/17439760.2012.743573

Brown, S. L., Nesse, R. M., Vinokur, A. D., & Smith, D. M. (2003). Providing Social Support May Be More Beneficial Than Receiving It: Results From a Prospective Study of Mortality. Psychological Science, 14(4), 320–327. https://doi.org/10.1111/1467-9280.14461

Diener, E., & Seligman, M. E. P. (2002). Very Happy People. Psychological Science, 13(1), 81–84. https://doi.org/10.1111/1467- 9280.00415

Myers, D. G. (1999). Close relationships and quality of life. In D. Kahneman, E. Diener, & N. Schwarz (eds.), Well-Being: The foundations of hedonic psychology. New York: Russell Sage Foundation. 

Robinson, P. L., Oades, L. G. & Caputi, P. (2014). Conceptualising and measuring mental fitness, Doctor of Philosophy thesis, Department of Psychology, University of Wollongong. https://ro.uow.edu.au/theses/4269

Robinson, P. L., Oades, L. G., & Caputi, P. (2015). Conceptualising and measuring mental fitness: A Delphi study. International Journal of Wellbeing, 5(1), 53-73.

 

 

 

3 Tips to Support Your Mental Fitness in the Age of Coronavirus

3 Tips to Support Your Mental Fitness in the Age of Coronavirus

If you’ve been thinking that the world has become consumed with the Coronavirus, you’re right. A recent article states that “Coronavirus” was mentioned in the media more than 18,000,000 in one day.  Everywhere you turn, someone or something is talking about the virus.  It is clear that this issue is one of global concern, worrying governments, schools, workplaces and families around the world.  Governments and organisations are taking extraordinary cautions that many of us have not seen in our lifetimes in order to reduce the potential negative impact of the virus.  We are beginning to see schools and businesses close, instructing students and employees to conduct their work virtually.  Some countries and states are in total lockdown with the exception of pharmacies and groceries stores.  Even travel has been restricted to and from several countries around the world, changing plans of travellers and affecting industries many countries like Australia rely on.

For many people watching this situation unfold, thinking about the possible physical and financial impacts is causing significant stress and worry.  Some have even started to panic, hoarding the essentials that all households rely on. While it is important to take this situation seriously, it is equally important that we all continue to stay calm, support those around us and look after our own physical and mental wellbeing.  In this article, we will give you some strategies that can help you stay more mentally fit during these challenging times.

1. Reduce the Time You Spend Watching News and Engaging in Social Media

It’s important to stay informed about the current situation.  However, spending too much time reading about the negative can incite fear, chronic stress, anxiety and poor health. Research shows that watching bad news can significantly increase the tendency to catastrophise a personal worry, even if it’s not related to the content of the news story.  Research from a 2001 study examined how 9/11 coverage impacted viewers.  In some, it was enough to trigger PTSD symptoms.  Interestingly, the severity of symptoms was correlated with the amount of time people spent watching television. 

If you have children in the home, be particularly mindful about what is on the tv while they are home.  Children’s developing brains do not have the ability to reason the same way as adults.  One study suggests that just five minutes of distressing news daily (i.e. disturbing stories, images, or videos) may lead children to struggle with fear, anxiety, aggression, sleep problems, and behavioural difficulties. 

What You Can Do

Develop healthy boundaries with media and technology.  Limit your access to social media and other apps through features such as Apple Screen Time on your mobile phone.  You can even set a time limit for each day so that you can unplug from the 24-hour news cycle.  Also apply these tools for any family sharing plans to keep your family safe and healthy online.

If you have children in the home, be sure to talk to them about the messages they are hearing in the media.  Assure them that they are safe, and it will be ok.  Turn the tv off when they are in the room and engage in a positive activity instead.

2. Understand the Negativity Bias

Negative emotions have allowed us to survive as a species. They protect us from danger and still remain an important part of our evolution. However, this evolutionary mechanism in our brains, known as the Negativity Bias, makes us pay more attention to the negative experiences or things in our life than the positive. 

There’s a good reason for this. For survival, our ancestors had to be attuned to those things that were life-threatening (predators). Paying too much attention to the positive things around them (that did not pose a risk) made no sense when survival was a day-to-day proposition. 

Fortunately, life is much safer in the 21st century. However, the Negativity Bias is still alive and well in the primitive part of our brain. Our brains are, in fact, hardwired to ‘Velcro’ the negatives and ‘Teflon’ the positives. This can cause problems for us by creating an unhealthy positive-to-negative emotional ratio, particularly during times of stress.  

What You Can Do

Examine your thoughts and think about how they are making you feel.  Sometimes, we experience Automatic Negative Thoughts (we call these ANTs).  It is important to remember that your thoughts are not facts and sometimes we all tell ourselves things that may not be true.  Watch out for thinking traps and try to change them when you can.  One common thinking trap you or someone you know may be experiencing is something called catastrophising.  Catastrophising has two parts, the first is predicting a negative outcome.  The second part is jumping to the conclusion that if the negative outcome did in fact happen, it would be a catastrophe. Catastrophising can make people feel helpless and cause rumination. 

You can help balance the negativity bias by first spotting you ANTs and challenging them in a realistic way.  When you have this thought, ask yourself (or the other person with the ANT) a few challenging questions:

  • How much do you believe in this thought? 
  • What is the evidence for and against this thought? Could you convince a jury that your negative interpretation is the best or only valid one? 
  • How many times in the past have you had this kind of thought? Have you ever been wrong? 
  • If the thought is true, are there some things you can do to improve the situation? 
  • THE KEY QUESTION!! Is this thought helping me?

Promote healthy thinking by catching your own ANTs and helping those around spot and challenge theirs. 

3. Think About Who’s on Your Team

Isolation is, well, isolating.  With isolation becoming more frequent, people are beginning to express the challenges that they are experiencing from connecting less with others.  Being isolated for medical reasons, or even working from home can make people feel flat and lonely.  It is no surprise that this change is having a big impact on people around the globe.  Research suggests that our relationships are one of the biggest predictors of physical and psychological wellbeing across all ages.  During this unusual time, it may be important for all of us to find new ways to stay connected and support our families, friends, co-workers and communities.  

What You Can Do

It can be helpful to think about who in your life you can reach out to when you need some support, a laugh, or just looking for a chat.  You can create a list of people to ring or video chat to have on hand when you need a bit of a mood boost.  To get your list started, you may want to ask yourself some of these questions:

  • Who could you turn to for help with daily chores or work tasks if you were sick?
  • Who makes you feel energised when you spend time with them?
  • Who is someone that can give you information to help you understand a situation?
  • Who makes you feel good about yourself?
  • Who is someone you can count on to listen to you when you need to talk?
  • Who is someone to have a good time with? 

You can schedule a time to connect with the people in your life and set a reminder on your calendar.  It can be as simple as a quick text, a phone call, a video chat or even sending a card or letter.  Remember, if you’re feeling a bit lonely there’s a good chance that others are as well.  

Stay Calm and Healthy

The tips above may not prevent Coronavirus, but we hope that they provide you with a few ideas on how you can stay mentally healthy during this challenging time.  Just like physical fitness, your mental fitness requires regular practice and good habits.  Practising the tips above regularly can help you stay mentally fit and bounce back more successfully when things are tough.

If you are interested in learning more ways to build mental fitness in your home, school, workplace or community, visit our website at www.appli.edu.au.  We also offer digital wellbeing programs, online courses, training programs and consulting services for individuals and organisations. 

Wellbeing – the simple truth behind this latest buzzword

Wellbeing – the simple truth behind this latest buzzword

The term ‘wellbeing’ has become a hot topic in the past decade.  Wellbeing is mentioned everywhere from TV commercials to corporate values.  It is used to sell supplements, medical products, self-help books, ‘super food smoothies’ and even makeup and beauty products.  With the vast array of applications, it is no wonder that there is confusion about what wellbeing actually is.

In reality, wellbeing is more than a trendy buzzword.  Psychological wellbeing refers to the scientific attributes that allow people to flourish at school, work and life.  The World Health Organization (2014) defines wellbeing as “a state in which the individual realises his or her own abilities, can cope with normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully and is able to make a contribution to his or her own community.”  Wellbeing is the ability to develop skills and resources that outweigh the challenges that you may face in life.

What contributes to this state of wellbeing can be quite complex.  Most researchers agree that wellbeing is a ‘multi-dimensional construct’, which simply means that it is made up of a number of separate but related ideas. A good example of a ‘multi-dimensional construct’ is the concept of physical fitness. Physical fitness consists of strength, flexibility and endurance. They’re each a separate element, but all are components of physical fitness.

Some of these underlying constructs that contribute to wellbeing include psychological concepts like meaning and purpose in life, resilience, positive emotions, satisfaction with life, mindfulness, relationships, social and emotional skills, workplace engagement, creativity, gratitude, optimism, goal setting and attainment, leadership skills, and many more.  In fact, there are hundreds of specific constructs that are being studied by scientists and wellbeing researchers.

Unlike traditional psychology which focuses on what is wrong in the brain and how to fix it, the study of wellbeing (sometimes referred to as Positive Psychology) focuses on discovering how people with very high levels of mental health think, feel and behave.  By analyzing these attributes, scientists and researchers have now developed many evidence-based ways of teaching people with low to moderate levels of mental health how to cultivate these skills and improve their wellbeing over time.  When practised regularly, these resources serve as a protective buffer against mental illness, stress and burnout.  You can think of wellbeing resources as an inoculation, boosting the psychological immune system to assist when critical challenges arise.

Why focus on wellbeing?

Around the world, schools, workplaces, communities and governments are focusing on how they can help their people build these critical psychological skills.  The evidence is compelling: low levels of wellbeing have huge implications for individuals and communities. We know that mental illness accounts for between 3% and 16% of total health expenditure across many countries (OECD, 2011).  In a report to the World Economic Forum in 2012, Gerald Bloom (a physician and health economist at the Institute of Development Studies at the University of Sussex) predicted that the global cost of mental illness would be more than $6 trillion by 2030. It’s a staggering figure that includes loss of labour supply, high rates of unemployment, high incidence of illness, absence from work and study, and decreased productivity (Mental Health and Work: Switzerland, 2014).

Globally, depression is the number 1 cause of illness and disability in age group 10-14, and suicide ranks number 3 among causes of death. Some studies show that half of all people who develop mental disorders have their first symptoms by the age of 14 (Espinoza, 2015).

Martin Seligman is one of the pioneers of Positive Psychology. He suggests that we have much to gain both economically and socially by beginning to think about wellbeing and mental health promotion in conjunction with mental illness prevention and treatment. He argues that if we continue to focus on simply responding to diagnosed mental illness alone, the best we can hope for is to reduce levels of diagnosed mental illness (Seligman, 2011).

Building on this idea, many scholars and practitioners today propose that we focus on developing wellbeing for its own sake (because our families and communities are stronger when people have high levels of wellbeing), rather than simply to reduce and prevent mental illness.  There is good reason for this paradigm shift.  Research suggests that improved levels of wellbeing are associated with many benefits, including:

  • faster recovery from surgery
  • lower incidence of cancer
  • improved immunity to colds and flu viruses
  • reduced incidence of heart attacks
  • increased ability to cope with stress
  • higher levels of worker satisfaction and productivity
  • increased life expectancy
  • stronger verbal communication skills
  • improved memory
  • more openness in social relationships
  • fewer illnesses
  • fewer marriage breakups
  • more creative and flexible thinking
  • increased creativity
  • higher levels of mental acuity
  • better performance at work
  • improved ability to make decisions
  • greater resilience following trauma
  • greater tolerance towards others

In an education setting, improved levels of wellbeing are associated with:

  • better academic results
  • higher levels of academic engagement and participation
  • higher retention rates
  • stronger social and emotional skills
  • pro-social behaviour
  • higher levels of optimism
  • improved health-related behaviours
  • greater levels of self-control
  • fewer symptoms of depression
  • less hopelessness
  • lower clinical levels of depression and anxiety
  • reduction in conduct problems
  • lower levels of procrastination

(Seligman, 2011; Heaphy & Dutton, 2008; Dutton & Ragins, 2007; Fredrickson, 2001; Fredrickson, 2008; Durlak et al., 2011; Gray & Hackling, 2009; Noble & McGrath, 2012; Bird, & Markle, 2012; Brunwasser, Gillham& Kim, 2009; Seligman et al., 2009).

So how can we do it?

Anyone can learn to build their wellbeing resources.  But, it takes the cultivation of habits and regular practice of evidence-based activities.  Just like physical fitness, your mental fitness our mental fitness also requires our constant attention and the cultivation of good practices (Robinson, 2017; 2014; Robinson, Oades & Caputi, 2015; Zolezzi, 2017). Evidence suggests that individuals are able to learn the skills of wellbeing and achieve measurable improvements in their daily functioning and personal and professional performance. So which practices and activities should people practice?  Follow the Appli blog to find out…

References

Bird, J., Markle, R. (2012). Subjective wellbeing in school environments: Promoting positive youth development through evidence-based assessment. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 82, 61-66.

Bloom, D.E., Cafiero, E.T., Jané-Llopis, E., Abrahams-Gessel, S., Bloom, L.R., Fathima, S., Feigl, A.B., Gaziano, T., Mowafi, M., Pandya, A., Prettner, K., Rosenberg, L., Seligman, B., Stein, A.Z., & Weinstein, C. (2011). The Global Economic Burden of Noncommunicable Diseases. Geneva: World Economic Forum.

Brunwasser, S.M., Gillham, J. E., & Kim, E. S. (2009). A meta-analytic review of the Penn Resiliency Program’s effect on depressive symptoms. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 77(6). 1042-1054.

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